In the aftermath of the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, we have been developing the following various safe technologies for boiling water reactors (BWRs), including a passive water-cooling system, an infinite-time air-cooling system, a hydrogen explosion prevention system, and an operation support system for reactor accidents.
One of inherently safe technologies currently under development is a system to prevent hydrogen explosion during severe accidents (SAs). This hydrogen explosion prevention system consists of a high-temperature resistant fuel cladding of silicon carbide (SiC), and a passive autocatalytic recombiner (PAR). Replacing the zircaloy (Zry) claddings currently used in LWRs with the SiC claddings decreases the hydrogen generation and thus decreases the risk of hydrogen leakage from a primary containment vessel (PCV) to a reactor building (R/B) such as an operation floor. The PAR recombines the leaked hydrogen gas so as to maintain the hydrogen concentration at less than the explosion limit of 4 % in the R/B.
The advantages of using SiC claddings in the system were examined through experiments and SA analysis. Results of steam oxidation tests confirmed that SiC was estimated to show 2 to 3 orders of magnitude lower hydrogen generation rates during oxidation in a high temperature steam environment than Zry. Results of SA analysis showed that the total amount of hydrogen generation from fuels was reduced to one fifth or less. Calculation also showed that the lower heat of the oxidation reaction of SiC moderated the steep generation with the temperature increase. We expected this moderated steep generation to reduce the pressure increase in the PCV as well as prevent excess amounts of leaked hydrogen from hydrogen disposal rate capacity using PARs.
The SiC cladding under consideration consists of an inner metallic layer, a SiC/SiC composite substrate, and an outer environment barrier coating (EBC). A thin inner metallic layer in combination with a SiC/SiC composite substrate functions as a barrier for fission products. EBC is introduced to have both corrosion resistance in high temperature water environments during normal operation and oxidation resistance in high temperature steam environments during SA. Further reduction of the hydrogen generation rate in high temperature steam by improving the EBC is expected to decrease the total amount of hydrogen generation even more.